Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
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08-06-2011, 10:55 AM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(07-06-2011 11:59 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  
(07-06-2011 04:32 AM)pilgrim Wrote:  I think we need to look at this on multiple levels.

First, there is the widespread, perhaps universal, existence of a moral sense, the idea that some things are right and some things are wrong, even if it is not entirely clear which are which.

Second, there seem to be some things which almost everyone thinks are wrong. Unprovoked violence is one. No one can be a complete relativist when a gun is pointed at their heart by a total stranger.

Third, there are clearly certain things which have changed. Slavery is a good example. What foods are permissible and which are not is a less emotional one (unless you are muslim or hindu maybe?).

Although people might say that morality is relative, but I still believe that it is partially absolute! Heres an example:

Killing is considered bad today!
Moral relativists say that it is bad today, but years ago it was considered a normal act.
According to Moral absolutism, it was bad 2000 years ago, 1500 yrs ago, and now!

Both are right, but at the same time wrong.

Moral absolutism is right because if you were born 2000 years ago would you have let your child do that? hmm, i don't think so! (or maybe! idk)
Moral relativism is right because values seem to evolve and depend on time/social/condition/..., but relativism is wrong because i dont think anyone wants to accept slavery! if they do, are you going to tell them they can't? you can't tell them cause it is relative! You can't tell the president of X not to kill their own people because morality is relative!

So i don't think it is 100% relative! it can't be!

It is hard question to answer. I mean I can't still decide if it is absolute or relative.

but We for sure don't get our moral values from religions! Homosexuality is considered normal today. If religious people were right that we actually get our "morality" from religion, If religion tells us what is right and what is wrong, then how come people don't get the idea that homosexuality is a sin from religions??? How come people are accepting homosexuality and are not discriminating against them (obviously less than before) if all religions are against homosexuality! so we dont get our moral values from religions!

BY THE WAY, i don't agree with religion people who say that morality is absolute and is God-given! no, don't get me wrong!
(07-06-2011 11:33 AM)sy2502 Wrote:  
(06-06-2011 10:13 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  So i've been thinking about morality for a long time, but I can't decide if morality is relative or if it is absolute, and if it evolves!

Sam Harris always say that morality is like health, you never say that a person who likes to vomit is healthy! (he gives many examples). He also said that you don't question your doctor when he tells you you have a problem. So to Harris, morality is fairly objective and we just need to discover the moral values (or i am wrong and he says something else?)

I sometimes think morality is relative, but then again it can be absolute!Huh
What do you guys/girls thinks?

Also, do you think morality evolves?

There is a fundamental problem with Harris' argument. He doesn't see there's a fundamental difference between these 2 questions:

- Is being happy desirable for the individual whose happiness is in question?
-Is this individual's happiness a moral value?

Of course we can actually conduct objective tests to show that when the individual is happy, that individual is probably healthier, more productive, etc etc. But that alone doesn't make it "morally right". After all, a rapist is probably happy while raping somebody, but that doesn't make it morally right. The problem is that Harris defined arbitrarily that morally right means maximizing happiness. And since that definition is arbitrary, his morality is relative. It doesn't matter that most of us probably agree with his definition, it is still arbitrary. Now say somebody comes along and says "no, moral good is not maximizing human happiness, but serving god". Well, how do you prove that your definition of moral good is objectively better than that other one? You can't because "good" is an artificial human construct, and as such arbitrary.

I totally agree. His definition is totally arbitrary.
(Btw, for those of you who wants to watch Sam's lecture, here it is:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTKf5cCm-9g and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm2Jrr0tRXk)

I think people first to need to define morality and see if it actually exists!
If i don't like to kill people, it does not mean I am a "moral" being! It just mean i don't like to kill people! at the same time, it is better to say things are bad and good cause we don't want chaos! Shy

I think the only objective judgment one can make about moral concepts is: is a society better off (using measurable factors like economic prosperity, perceived happiness, health, etc) if it follows one set of moral values rather than another, at a given point in time?
For example, under the Roman Empire, democracy was not particularly prized, they practiced slavery, they had no gender equality, they got their fun by watching people butcher each other, etc. Yet the Roman Empire was the most stable, exemplary and prosperous society of its time. Fast forward to more modern times to America, founded on the concept of democracy, personal freedom, individual rights, equal opportunity, and America is (or was?) the most stable, exemplary, and prosperous society of its time. So which one had it right? Going by the criteria above... both!

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08-06-2011, 10:29 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
[/quote]

I think the only objective judgment one can make about moral concepts is: is a society better off (using measurable factors like economic prosperity, perceived happiness, health, etc) if it follows one set of moral values rather than another, at a given point in time?
For example, under the Roman Empire, democracy was not particularly prized, they practiced slavery, they had no gender equality, they got their fun by watching people butcher each other, etc. Yet the Roman Empire was the most stable, exemplary and prosperous society of its time. Fast forward to more modern times to America, founded on the concept of democracy, personal freedom, individual rights, equal opportunity, and America is (or was?) the most stable, exemplary, and prosperous society of its time. So which one had it right? Going by the criteria above... both!
[/quote]

I agree. Behaviors that we value make our society stable, but does that mean it is moral to do that? i dont know!
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13-06-2011, 04:20 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
Nothing in the human mind is absolute, and morality is a human mental concept. Other species have rules of behaviour that are instinctive or imprinted on them while very young; we have to make observations, value judgments and decisions all the time.

There is a more or less universal human morality, of which the fundamental tenet is: Don't risk the long-term survival of the group for the short-term satisfaction of an individual. (Because if the group dies, so do you, selfish little shit!)

Beyond that, in the details, morality must be adapted to particular geography, the size and structure of the group, the prevailing circumstances and the desirable outcomes. Social morality is always manipulated by the elite to serve their own ends. Personal morality is always adapted by individuals according to their needs, the threats and challenges they must face, and the culture which wired their brains in childhood. Words, like morality itself, also undergo change and adaptation in different times and societies and conditions - concepts like rape, murder, war, slavery are far from constant in meaning and application, in the attitude people have toward them and in whether they are acceptable to a society.

Adaptation, variation and change are not the same as evolution. I don't think morality evolves, or not any faster than humankind does, so we can't expect to see results in a mere 30,000 years.

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17-06-2011, 01:08 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(07-06-2011 02:27 PM)The_observer Wrote:  
(07-06-2011 06:08 AM)pilgrim Wrote:  I don't think there is any practise more widely condemned than rape.
Indeed and with good reason! I think rape is a fate worse then death. When a theist states that morality is absolute, the first example he comes up with is rape. Mostly followed with a smug look on his face. As long is I can think about it, I can never come up with a good reason to rationalize rape. So that's why I rape is 99,99% bad. Now you are going to ask, "what about that ,01%"? Well, that would be the "argument of ignorance" margin. Confused

I think we need to re-evaluate what we define as rape. There are many cultures still around today which do not allow women to choose their husbands. If the woman does not want to sleep with her husband, but he does anyway, then I would consider it rape. Yet, this practice has to be common in places where women have little to no rights because forcing/coercing/brainwashing women into accepting some stranger that her father/uncle/brother chose for her into her bed is no different than any other situation in which a woman is forced to have sex against her will. Therefore, I would say that while many societies have evolved a morality that sees any unwanted sexual contact to be abhorrent, there are still places where it is the norm and is perhaps not seen as immoral (since women are seen as the same level as chattel >.<)

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22-06-2011, 12:59 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(13-06-2011 04:20 PM)Peterkin Wrote:  Nothing in the human mind is absolute, and morality is a human mental concept. Other species have rules of behaviour that are instinctive or imprinted on them while very young; we have to make observations, value judgments and decisions all the time.

There is a more or less universal human morality, of which the fundamental tenet is: Don't risk the long-term survival of the group for the short-term satisfaction of an individual. (Because if the group dies, so do you, selfish little shit!)

Beyond that, in the details, morality must be adapted to particular geography, the size and structure of the group, the prevailing circumstances and the desirable outcomes. Social morality is always manipulated by the elite to serve their own ends. Personal morality is always adapted by individuals according to their needs, the threats and challenges they must face, and the culture which wired their brains in childhood. Words, like morality itself, also undergo change and adaptation in different times and societies and conditions - concepts like rape, murder, war, slavery are far from constant in meaning and application, in the attitude people have toward them and in whether they are acceptable to a society.

Adaptation, variation and change are not the same as evolution. I don't think morality evolves, or not any faster than humankind does, so we can't expect to see results in a mere 30,000 years.

I see that as a great way to explain it. It really came from natural tenants on how to survive as a populating race. The issue is that religions began to conceptualize the idea of absolute morality and implement their guidelines as absolute despite those rules only being relative to their location.

I think what should be added to this topic is the debate whether believing in absolute morality or relative morality produces a more moral obey individual/society.

It's a hard concept to judge off the bat but I thought of that when looking at this topic because of a chart analyzing successful societies (Based on their health, crime rates, marriage length, & life expectancy) compared to believe in god.

[Image: greg-paul-figure-1.jpg?w=424&amp;h=370]

The data gather is said to state that belief grows in a nation that has more insecurity. Which explains factors of crime and worse health being higher.

If the people absolutely believe in their creator God. Likely most of them believe in absolute morality. Yet if there is more immoral and illegal behavior amongst those who believe absolute morality opposed to moral relativism, what does it say. I'd think being moral because you believe it is absolute hurts the case for it being moral because it implies there is a direct opposition in the idea of evil.
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22-06-2011, 01:18 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
I believe we have levels of morality. There is base morality which would be the more common sense morality that is universally true and if you stripped away all outside conventions you would instantly recognize them. Such as reason less murder, rape, things we wouldn't want done to us.

Then we have societies morality, which is evolution specific and can destroy any base moralities. I say evolution specific, because they change with time and situation, and are usually accepted by your demographic, but may not be in someone else's. I also say can destroy any base moralities because I think we only hold onto those things which we are born with until something else comes along and tells us differently, often that is circumstance. Circumstance has this funny way of convincing us otherwise. We are such adept survivors as a species that we easily conform to the ideas we need to survive at the time. Because base morality or not, conforming up until now has really been whats gotten us this far.

It's only now that most of us have the opportunity to really sit back and examine morality, what is right from wrong, without fear of persecution. So it seems weird that even without a set of rules set out by someone else we can somehow know what is right and wrong. I think morality has a base in each of us, and all that base is, will be whatever we wouldn't wish upon ourselves.

Then again what do I know?

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23-06-2011, 05:43 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
I think Absolute morality vs relative morality should not be confused with Universal vs cultural morality. They are very different concepts.
I was reading some of the comments and noticed that people use these terms interchangeably.
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23-06-2011, 05:56 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(23-06-2011 05:43 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  I think Absolute morality vs relative morality should not be confused with Universal vs cultural morality. They are very different concepts.
I was reading some of the comments and noticed that people use these terms interchangeably.

Then why don't you clear the air for us by explaining the difference? Smile

English is not my first language. If you think I am being mean, ask me. It could be just a wording problem.
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23-06-2011, 11:17 PM
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
(23-06-2011 05:56 PM)sy2502 Wrote:  
(23-06-2011 05:43 PM)godofskeptic Wrote:  I think Absolute morality vs relative morality should not be confused with Universal vs cultural morality. They are very different concepts.
I was reading some of the comments and noticed that people use these terms interchangeably.

Then why don't you clear the air for us by explaining the difference? Smile

haha, true!
I think
Absolute Morality = morality that does not change over time. An action/attitude that was "right" years ago, is right now and will be forever.
Relative Morality = morality that changes over time. An action/attitude that was "right" years ago, might or might not be right now or in future.
Universal Morality = An action/attitude that is "right" everywhere and is independent of a culture or context.
Cultural Morality = An action/attitude that is "right" in one culture but is not right in another culture. (Which I think is similar to Cultural relativism)

Something can be universal but relative (And vice versa), and things can be cultural but absolute (and vice versa) and ....


what do you guys think? Am I wrong?
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24-06-2011, 09:11 AM
 
RE: Moral Relativism Vs. Absolute Morality, and Does morality evolve?
When I think of relative vs absolute morality, I usually think of it in the context of religion. Absolute would be arbitrary rules set by God, relative would be rules based on the impact certain actions have on others. If God needs to justify his rules, then morality is based on those justifications and not on him being God, so they must be completely arbitrary. I consider morality relative in that there isn't necessarily a right system, and that things must often be examined on a case-by-case basis. I think of it as somewhat absolute in that cultural differences or attitudes shared at a certain time don't automatically constitute good moral rules.

Slavery violates a person's freedom and creates suffering, and is therefore always wrong. A system of morality that allows slavery is one that either does not take into account individual freedom and suffering, or one that allows for arbitrary exceptions based on race, gender, or other factors which are irrelevant. Either way, I'm not interested in that kind of moral code.
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